"After The Crucifixion"
by Alan Plessinger
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstories used in "After The Crucifixion" are the sole property of MCA/Universal. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this fan fiction.
After the hours of horrible, mind-numbing agony and the waves of nausea were finally over, they opened their eyes and struggled to their feet. They were on the bank of the river Styx, and Hades was there.
The pain was gone. They looked down at their arms. No marks. No wounds.
Gabrielle smiled at Xena, and at Hades.
"Takes a lot to kill us," Gabrielle said to Hades. "I don't guess there's gonna be any going back this time?"
Hades shook his head.
"Artemis will be here soon to conduct you to the Amazon Land of the Dead," said Hades.
"Xena, too," said the Amazon Queen.
"What? No, it should've worked. I gave her my right of caste. She accepted."
"Yes, I know, Gabrielle. And it would've worked if you'd died first as you planned. But you didn't."
Xena looked down and said nothing.
"No! I tried as hard as I could to let go and die first. This had to have worked!"
"You outlasted Xena."
"No, please, Hades! We have to be together! I can't spend eternity without Xena. You can't keep us apart forever because of one stupid little rule! Please, I'm begging you!"
"Gabrielle " said Xena.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle," said Hades. "She goes to Tartarus."
"NO! You can't send her there after all the good she's done!"
"Gabrielle, you only knew her when she was trying to tread the path of righteousness. You don't know all that she was guilty of. She tried to atone, and you helped her, and I was truly pulling for both of you, I really was. But she's never even come close to making up for all the evil she's done."
"Gabrielle," said Xena, "it's OK. I deserve this. It will be good to finally pay for all I've done."
"If she's going to Tartarus I have to go with her. Whatever torments are there, we'll face them together. Please, Hades, just let us die as we lived. Together."
"That's not possible," he said.
"SEND ME TO TARTARUS!" she yelled, and slapped Hades across the face. She attacked him, and clawed at his eyes. He didn't flinch.
"No," he said. "The rules are clear."
"Damn the rules!" she yelled. "Damn the stupid rules, and damn you, Hades! I curse you! I curse a god, isn't that enough? I curse you, and Zeus, and Ares, and Aphrodite, and every other god!"
"It doesn't work that way, Gabrielle."
"Please, Hades, just send me back for a day. You've done it for others. I'll do anything, anything I need to get into Tartarus! I'll kill a three-year-old child! Anything!"
Hades shook his head.
"Gabrielle," said Xena, "please don't talk that way."
"Hades, what about reincarnation?"
"Yes," he said, "your souls are being reincarnated right now."
Gabrielle looked at herself, and at her love.
"What does that mean?" she asked. "We're still here!"
"You don't understand. Reincarnation just means that a copy of your souls are going out into the world to try again. You've been given a glimpse of your future lives, but that doesn't mean you'll get to live them. Your soul and Xena's will be forever linked, and she will be great, and you will be an assistant to greatness."
"Good. I wouldn't have it any other way. In life I assisted her in doing great deeds and fighting great evils, and I did what I could to ease her great suffering. Well, if the great deeds are gone the great suffering remains, and I won't let her face it alone. I can't!"
"There might be a chance," said Hades, "if Xena denounced you. You've done her a lot of unintentional harm. If she denounced you, I could speak to Artemis. There might be something I could do. But so far she's chosen to forgive you. Xena?"
Xena looked first to Hades, then back to Gabrielle.
"Xena," said Gabrielle, "you heard him. Do what you have to do."
Xena shook her head.
"Gabrielle, I know we should be together. But not like this. How could I send you to Tartarus?"
Gabrielle stood close to Xena.
"Please, Xena, do what he asks. I'm begging you. Xena, I need to be with you. There's nothing but Tartarus away from your beautiful blue eyes and your noble soul."
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle."
"Xena," she said angrily, "I don't believe that you ever loved me. I think you're glad to be rid of me."
"Do you really believe that?"
Gabrielle looked into those beautiful blue eyes as her own filled with tears.
"Not for a second. Why are you doing this to us?"
"I have to. Gabrielle, your love was the most wonderful gift anyone has ever been given, and I will take it with me into Tartarus and I'll remember it every day of eternity, and it will make me strong, Gabrielle, and I'll know that whatever evil I've done in my life, whatever wrong I was ever guilty of, I was never mean and selfish enough to condemn you to Tartarus just to have you near me, even though I want to so much, Gabrielle. I'll feel the loss of your touch until the end of time. There's nothing they can do to me in Tartarus that's any worse than that."
"Xena, I'm sorry," said Gabrielle, and wrapped her arms around her love in a hug.
"It was my job to get you to the Elysian fields, and I failed you."
"You didn't have much to work with, Gabrielle."
"Don't say that. Don't ever, ever say that."
Gabrielle turned her anger on Hades.
"How can someone so good and honorable be going to Tartarus? How?"
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle," said Hades. "There are just too many good and decent souls that are unwilling to forgive her."
"Let me talk to them."
"No, Gabrielle. It doesn't work that way."
"Then how exactly does it work, Hades? What are the damn rules?"
"That's not permitted for you to know, Gabrielle."
"Then how in creation are we supposed to play this stupid game and get to the Elysian fields if we're not even permitted to know when we're doing right or wrong?"
"Gabrielle, I understand how you feel, but I'm only doing my job as Zeus has defined it. Come, now, say your goodbyes. Charon is waiting. Artemis will be here soon."
Gabrielle turned back to Xena.
"It can't end like this," said Gabrielle. "Not after everything we've been through together."
"Gabrielle, I never expected it to end any different. When two people truly love each other, there can never be a happy ending."
"Xena, when two people truly love each other," she said, and placed her hand over Xena's heart, "there can never be an ending."
Xena's eyes softened as she took Gabrielle's hand in both of hers.
"Xena, I can't believe you're not even going to fight this."
"It's over, Gabrielle. It's time to accept it. I'm going where I belong, and I'm getting what I deserve. And the truth is, it feels good to finally pay for what I've done."
"Xena, I wish I could've at least made you believe that you deserved the Elysian fields. You're a good person, Xena."
Xena looked away. She didn't want to hear it.
"YOU ARE!" said Gabrielle. "Xena, look at me! No bad person could feel the kind of guilt you feel. You don't deserve this. You don't!"
"Gabrielle, please just tell me one thing. Why?"
"Why? What are you talking about?"
"Why would you love me? How could you love me?"
"Xena, how could you ask that?"
"I know why I love you. Why shouldn't I love you? Why should I be any different than anyone else?"
"Xena, I love you because you're strong and courageous and you never give up. I love you because you know how to temper your strength with kindness, and because there's no one else like you, anywhere. I love you because I saw a warrior who so desperately wanted to do good and to be proud of her life, a woman who was so sad and tortured and who needed a friend, a woman I thought I could help, a woman who gave me a chance to be a part of great things and to make a difference in the world. And more than anything else, I love you because I can make you smile. And it makes me so damn happy to make you happy."
Xena smiled, and her eyes filled with tears.
"Thank you, Gabrielle," she said.
"Gabrielle," said Hades, "it's time to go."
"Just a few more minutes, please."
"No. Now, Gabrielle. We can't wait any longer."
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena in another hug. Xena hugged her in return.
"Let's go, Gabrielle," said Hades.
"NO!" said Gabrielle as Hades tried to pull her away. He succeeded in getting her hands loose, but she slipped out of his grasp. She fell to the ground and hugged Xena's knees.
"Let her go, Gabrielle."
"NO!" she yelled as Xena stroked her hair tenderly.
Hades got her to her feet and held her tightly. Xena looked at her, and couldn't stand that she was once again causing Gabrielle pain. It was almost enough to make her want to take Gabrielle with her. But she couldn't. She wouldn't.
She let Charon guide her to the ferry, but she kept her eyes on Gabrielle all the while. Gabrielle struggled in Hades' arms.
"Xena! Xena, NO! Don't let them do this! I can't be without you, Xena! Xena, please! I need you! I can't spend eternity without you! Xena, NO! NO!"
As the boat drifted into the river, Xena reflected that Gabrielle was finally free of the curse of her company. She hadn't managed to escape Tartarus, but she had avoided dragging Gabrielle with her. That was something, and it would have to be enough.
They lost sight of each other, and Gabrielle yelled "Xena! I love you!"
Xena wiped away her tears. She whispered, and it carried all the way across the river Styx.
"I love you, Gabrielle. Goodbye."
Gabrielle fell to her knees, and cried, and softly whimpered Xena's name. Hades put a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle."
"Stop saying that! You're not sorry! Stop pretending you are! Human beings are just playthings for the gods. Souls are something to speculate on, like dice. Damn you! Human beings have more nobility and more courage and more love than you gods will ever know, and you treat us like animals! You put us down in impossible situations full of horror and strife and terror and you expect us to be perfect and never do anything wrong, and if we screw up you damn us to Tartarus for all eternity!"
She stood up and faced Hades. The tears continued as she spoke.
"When is there going be some forgiveness and compassion and understanding enter the world? When? How many people have to struggle through their lives crushed by the weight of their sins, just praying for a chance to start over and escape the darkness of their past? People don't want a lot from you gods, just the chance to start over, and maybe the chance to live their lives with you gods leaving them alone! Maybe even helping them sometimes! Why is that too much to ask? Why?"
"I don't know, Gabrielle."
"If I had it in my power, I would forgive everyone. I would take all the sins of the world on my own shoulders and I would do all the suffering for everyone, and I would yell it to all the world, 'You're free! You're free of your sins, and you don't have to earn your forgiveness! You just have to take this chance you've been given and start over again, because you finally have the opportunity to do good and to try and live a good life! Finally, it's not hopeless! Finally, finally, you have a chance!'"
She looked away from Hades and continued sobbing, and Hades shook his head at the naivete of this poor girl. He put his arm around her shoulder and tried to comfort her.
Not much longer after that, Artemis arrived to conduct her chosen to her final resting place.
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